Keep Trying to Find Your Passion While You Get to Work

Let me begin this by saying that Les McKeown is someone I know, like and trust.

But, when I read his recent blog post “Stop Trying to Find Your Passion and Get to Work” it broke my heart a little bit.

Then, when I saw that Charlie Gilkey was sort of agreeing and that Karrie Flatla was too, it broke a little more.

It’s not that I don’t agree that competence and hard work are necessary ingredients to build a business, I do, of course. Applying what I teach is not easy.  It takes a tremendous commitment, effort and, yes, competence. AND if that commitment is not fueled by passion, in this day and age, it is a whole lot more likely that it will not be sustainable.  We live in a more abundant world than ever before.  Today, there are a million and one ways to make money.  And everything is more complex.   In my experience, when the money-making endeavor is not fueled passion, it is simply not sustainable.

And in this new paradigm passion, purpose, love (I equate them all to the same thing) can and do all c0-exist with the highly profitable, sustainable business endeavor.  In fact, I will venture to say that those who do not get into the both/and mentality of this new paradigm will (and are) being left behind.

So maybe at the end of the day, me, Les, Charlie and Karrie all agree – it takes both/and.  Competence/elbow grease/good old hard work AND passion/purpose/love.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your comments.  I made a video you can watch about passion in business below.


  1. Charlie GilkeySaturday, January 29, 2011 at 2:26 am 

    I think we’re agreeing, Alexis. (I love your bit about me “sort of” agreeing with Les.)

    Like most of my positions, it’s the middle-ground, yes/and that I’m looking for. Passion is great – but it does not make a thriving business. At the same time, pure know-how doesn’t do the trick as well.

    We all know of passionate people who’ll struggle in biz because they can’t get their business wired right. (Isn’t that what LIFT is about?)

    We also all know plenty of people who are smart and savvy enough to get it done but who’ll never have a successful business because they lack the heart & courage to take the first and hard steps along the way.

    I’m saying passion isn’t sufficient & is instrumental to biz success. Depending on what we mean by “passion,” it might be necessary. At times I wish I had a more provocative either/or position than that, but I don’t.

  2. Karri FlatlaSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 3:45 am 

    Hi Alexis,

    Thanks for sharing your view point on this and responding to the conversation. It’s been a lively one!

    In my humble opinion, purpose trumps passion. Important distinction. For some folks passion may be one key to building a better business, but for many I don’t believe it hinges on this. Purpose – even if it’s a humble one — , intent and (what you did mention) alignment (even if it’s of the most basic kind) are, in my mind, the more “common” but important denominators. Along with competence of course.


  3. FrbarberaSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm 

    Interesting subject. My take is it depends what you mean by “passion.”

    In my experience, passion is not a reliable source of motivation – it is emotional, exhausting, and comprised of a lot of pushing and forcing. So in that sense, I might go so far as to say passion is actually a counterproductive factor in business. It results in attachment, emotionality, and force — when really a kind of neutrality, clear-headedness, nonattachment, and deliberate, calm persistence are where you’d want to be coming from.

    Googling “define:passion,” the top definitions returned are: a strong feeling or emotion; heat: the trait of being intensely emotional; rage: something that is desired intensely; mania: an irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action.

    None of these seem like a good place to be coming from when building a business.

    On the other hand, you may be referring to something else — and that is, a sense of alignment with Source, a sense of inner integrity, a sense that you are doing that which you are here to do. This is a non-emotional place to be and it is rock solid. From this place, I find I’m able to move forward deliberately, calmly, with at least some detachment that enables me to make better decisions and approach things in a more simple, clear-eyed fashion.

    Thanks for this discussion. Super helpful.

    With blessings,

  4. AnthonynleeSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm 

    right on!!!
    people don’t seem to understand that as human’s, passion is what drives us. the conduit through which we actually LIVE as opposed to exist, is emotion. it is an amazing tool. people mistake emotion as some ethereal, other-worldly creature, and those who embrace it wholly miss the boat, and those that avoid it for the same reasons, also miss the boat.
    emotion is the driving force that allows you to carry out what you are capable of and beyond. as human sponges, we learn, and we have learned the most by doing. logic would deduce that doing something before you have mastered it may lead to undesirable results. emotion, particularly passion, allows you to have the confidence and motivation to move forward anyway.
    if everyone ignored passion as a fundamental of business, expertise in so many ingenuitive areas would never develop.
    ingenuity is what advances the marketplace. it is what gives us the opportunities that we have.
    thanks for the inspiring post.

  5. Nanette SaylorSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm 

    I absolutely agree with you, Alexis, when you say “In my experience, when the money-making endeavor is not fueled passion, it is simply not sustainable.”
    When passion is not part of the business building equation, the energy it takes to keep pushing forward is exhausting. And that can only go on for so long before burnout occurs. When we build our businesses from a place of passion, then the activity is energizing. In the flow, we are fueled by the business growth, not burdened by it.

  6. Christina MorassiSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm 

    Wow… What a stimulating discussion! It really got me thinking…

    Fascinating. As someone who’s entire life has been built around living from passion, this invites me into some interesting distinctions.

    When I was in the healing arts, I was so committed to living from my passions… that I chose to live for 3 and a half years as a housesitter. I did this so that I could truly follow my bliss, and not be burdened down by the stress of paying rent. I also wanted to put ‘living in the flow’ to the test, as I often never knew where my next place to stay was coming from.

    It was a magical (and sometimes crazy) time, but I have to say… It didn’t REMOTELY lead me to true wealth. So in fact, I learned that following your bliss doesn’t actually work.

    It’s only been in the last two years when I started buckling down and learning about business and putting everything into action that I have begun to find success. So I do agree that the competency piece is quite important.

    However all that being said… I believe there are two kinds of passion; Airy-fairy Passion that is not Grounded, and Fire in the Belly Passion that is connected to a drive that actually makes things happen.

    And meanwhile… All passions have to start airy-fairy as dreams and ideas, before they can eventually become strong enough to materialize on the earth plane as concrete tangibles. This is the natural step-down process of how energy works in the Universe. And this is one of my favorite places to work with clients on turning the idea of Passion into actual Reality.

    So… I believe everyone is ‘right’!

    I too had my heart sink when I read Les McKeon’s article… It didn’t feel very inspired or connected to passion at all. (Which I suppose goes without saying.)

    However… I do believe he’s raised some good points that have really crystallized how I myself feel about this. And I am so grateful to you Alexis for sharing your own experience, as well as being a beacon for the new paradigm where we know grounded passion connected to competency is where its at. Both/and, right?

  7. Elisha CelesteSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm 

    Wow, this is an absolutely FASCINATING discussion! Not only that, but a really important one for our times. Thanks for starting such a GREAT conversation Alexis!

    I’m struggling a bit with how to reply, because I have so many feelings and thoughts about this, AND I’m a bit brain-dead from a hardcore workout this morning! So pardon me if I don’t get this out as eloquently as I could.

    First, Christina, I LOVE what you wrote, and have had similar experiences around life, money, flow and ‘passion.’ I love that you used the word Distinctions, because making distinctions in any field of thought is extremely important for grounding it in reality. I agree there is a MASSIVE difference in Airy Fairy passion and Fire in the Belly Passion (oh, how I love that phrase!)

    I am a very passionate person, very heart-centered and was never interested in taking the well trodden path of college, job, career. I wanted my life to have meaning! (And still do). Like Christina, I couch-surfed quite a lot, traveled, had some amazing life experiences and followed my whims…and in between struggled enormously with my finances! It wasn’t until I discovered Tony Robbins and took his Personal Power II course by the horns that I fully understood how to HARNESS my passion and drive and channel it into action. And I also consciously decided to study marketing, business and systems, and most importantly not to let things that frustrate or confuse me stop me from taking action or pursuing my dreams, something I am still working on.

    Second. Human beings are not all on the same level, are not all playing the same game, and I honestly believe it would be inappropriate (not to mention impossible) evolution-wise for us ALL to reach the same consciousness at the same time or era in history. Right now we are at the VERY beginnings of the New Paradigm, there are murmurs and ripples but I believe there is MUCH more to this Story, and its unfolding, that has yet to be fully realized or experienced.

    I think MANY people right now are fueled by the desire to make money in a New way; they want the freedom, lifestyle and happiness that they see all their Guru’s enjoying. They sense a shift, but aren’t sure what it means or where they or their dreams fit in.

    Then there are people who are purely motivated by money itself, will only pursue businesses that show obvious potential, the numbers have to Speak. There is no passion, and no caring who or what contributes or suffers, as long as the numbers increase the bottom line. Sure, they’re competent, and maybe you could say they are passionate about making money, but…at what cost?

    For me, the New Paradigm means allowing ourselves to be passionate about our unique gifts, talents or desires, to fully explore this, but to GROUND it in reality; it means establishing a concrete relationship to money, what money IS, it’s history and evolution and then asking what the world needs of US, what Mother Earth needs, what our fellow human beings need, and creating the New Paradigm out of hindsight, foresight, acknowledging our weaknesses and temptations where money is concerned and anchoring our passions and dreams in reality, fully aware that we can CREATE this reality, and consciously pursue our own evolution.

    So yes…it’s a BOTH/and. The pendulum swings first towards one pole, then its opposite…somewhere in there is the balance that will sustain, nurture, and nourish dreams, passion, businesses and competence.

    (Sorry for such a long response! Loving this topic).

  8. Randi PierceSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm 

    And so it begins…

    Out of the transition from where we’ve been (consciously, as a planet) to where we’re going is bound to create two staunch camps until we agree to meet somewhere in the middle (maybe we never will…). It’s the classic meeting of different philosophers — the rationalists vs. the spiritualists.

    Les’s article and your response, Alexis, discusses a topic that I’ve been rolling around in my head for many years, yet have only recently begun to get it down on paper (for a future book). There are many things that come to mind that I’d love to discuss here, but for now, I will address one major theme:

    What if we’ve discovered a completely different way to run a business — successfully? What if we’ve found a completely different way to live — and thrive?

    This soul-less, rational, logistical approach to business and life may work for some, but it doesn’t work (and never did) for me. All those years I spent in a soul-less, rational, logistical and male-dominated corporate world was shrinking my soul a little more each day.

    I would invite everyone (Alexis, I think you’ll agree with me on this…) to ponder the idea that the way we’ve been doing things isn’t the way we have to continue doing them. We are evolving… We are becoming more aware….Life and/or business no longer has to be soul-less. We are creators of the most infinitely creative type…we came here to design our lives and our businesses the way they work for us.

    In fact, it’s my belief that is our greatest potential and joy reside in our ability to CREATE IN JOY whether the joy is found in baking chocolate cupcakes or building a business.

    If Les, and others whom align with him, wish to continue life as is – it is their right to continue to do so. They do not have to change….

    As for me, I will continue to bring my passion into everything I do. And if that means using my passion, my creativity, to bend boundaries and break the rules — so be it.

    Thank you for you addressing this topic, Alexis…

    Soulful entrepreneurs ROCK!

  9. Craig FilekSaturday, January 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm 

    Dude. I’ve sabotaged EVERY SINGLE BUSINESS or J.O.B. I ever started that I wasn’t passionate about.

    Especially when I feigned passion in them (hyped myself up) because I convinced myself that it would ultimately fuel my purpose, which I truly was passionate about.

    When I unplugged for 6 months and just let that old way of working bleed out of my system, “drained the swamp” so to speak, my passion finally caught fire and I’ve never felt so alive. I rode through the financial challenges of this period to arrive at a place where I’m doing really well doing something I’m 100% passionate about.

    It’s a trip worth taking.

    Feel there fear… do it anyway ;-]

  10. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 3:58 am 

    Thank you Randi, can’t wait to read your book!

  11. Kelly AzevedoMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:03 am 

    YES! Love the loving responses to this question. The very problem I had (and many of my peers still face) is the desire to follow passion and having no idea what that is. How do we differentiate between interests and hobbies and passion? AND does my passion bring value to the world, can I make a living following this passion?

    Six months ago I just knew what my passions was NOT and I took a freelance job that I prayed was a step in the right direction. Working with Alexis Neely 🙂 Watching her passion and working with people who know their Great Work and share it has helped me find my own.

    So I see both sides. I know there’s a point when you need to take action, try something different and pursue the work you think you’re meant to do. Even if it’s not the work that you feel called to do for the rest of your life, get moving. Do something. Work with someone you admire. Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t feed your spirit.

  12. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:20 am 

    YES! The new paradigm is BOTH/AND. It’s can be challenging for us to embody that when we’ve been so conditioned to see things as black and white, either/or for so long. My hubby constantly says to me “Alexis, it’s not so black and white.” I’m learning. 🙂

  13. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:23 am 

    All hail FIRE IN THE BELLY passion. And Elisha we are SO on the same page re money. My work is to help people see money the same way they see fuel for their car. The gas tank gets low, we don’t freak out, we get in our car and drive to the gas station. Money is the exact same kind of fuel, not a symbol of success or anything else for that matter. It’s a fuel, an energy. Looking forward to exploring this more with you!

  14. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:24 am 

    Yes, purpose needs to underlie it all. For sure, we are in agreement on that.

  15. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:26 am 

    Kelly, this is a great point – how do we differentiate between hobbies, interests and passions? The holy grail, to me, is when we can combine all three of these things into a venture that provides tremendous value to the world and supports our lifestyle at the same time. I’m SO grateful you took a step in the direction of working with me! Keep following your heart and seein what feels right and what doesn’t. There are no mistakes.

  16. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:27 am 

    Yepper, that’s been my experience and what I’m seeing around the most evolved people I know. If it’s not fueled by passion, it will be sabotaged, no matter how competent we are at the work itself.

  17. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:27 am 

    Yes, you’ve got it Nanette!

  18. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:28 am 

    Well, the new paradigm isn’t either/or so I get that you don’t have a more provocative either/or position because I definitely see you as a new paradigm kind of guy. Thanks for continuing the discussion.

  19. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:29 am 

    I wonder what would shift for you if you were willing to bring a little more emotion into your life and your work than feels comfortable. Let’s explore that sometime. Sending you tremendous love.

  20. AnonymousMonday, January 31, 2011 at 4:30 am 

    I love that – “the conduit through which we actually LIVE … is emotion.” Yes.

  21. Lisa BerkovitzMonday, January 31, 2011 at 12:23 pm 

    Thank you for this discussion, Alexis!! I read Les’ post and, I have to say, there is something about it that brings sadness to my heart as well. I will grant him one major point he makes which is that passion is not sufficient for guaranteed business success, and anyone who simplifies entrepreneurialism to that factor alone is not painting an accurate picture. Fair enough, I agree.

    You and I and countless other passionate entrepreneurs have invested countless hours and huge sums of money to continue to improve our knowledge and skills to be able to exemplify the highest possible level of competency (excellence, even?) in our fields. Passion alone is not enough.

    However, to me, passion is absolutely an essential ingredient for sustainable business success coupled with a sense of deep personal satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment on a relatively consistent basis.

    In other words, by what are we measuring “success”? The bottom line? The profitability of the company, the satisfaction of the shareholders, the number of satisfied customers, the reputation of the company in the market among not only customers but even by competitors? How widely are proponents of “competency” including in those more commonly-held measures of success taking into account a regularly- experienced sense of personal fulfillment, meaning and happiness by the business owner as well as his or her team members?

    Have there been entrepreneurs who have been successful in the long-run without the kind of passion we are talking about, primarily built on “competency” without a deep sense of passion for what they are doing and why? Yes, there are.

    But how physically and emotionally healthy are those people? How much buoyant energy do they have when they get out of bed in the morning and when they are in the last hours of their day? How enjoyable are they to work with? If they were truly honest with themselves, what would be their self-assessed level of happiness and fulfillment on a daily basis?

    These are the kinds of measures that are, for me, sorely lacking from typical measures of business success and the “competency” of the people who run those businesses. The new paradigm of business engages the heart and a sense of individual and organizational well-being and not just intellect and standard measures of competency.

    I would add that I recently got a new Mac computer after working on PC’s all my life. Yes, no question, Steve Jobs and his merry band of geniuses are highly competent at what they do. But I paid more than double what I needed to for my machine (had I chosen to buy another PC instead) and have invested precious time to move through the learning curve involved in changing systems. Why? Functionally, I could have stayed with another “highly competent” PC, had the same basic functions I needed to do my work, and saved myself a few dollars and a bunch of time and effort.

    But the tangible passion that Steve Jobs has infused into that company and its culture is infectious, and it shows in every last detail of the product and the service I have received, from every phone call I’ve made to an Apple store, to every online order made, to every trainer who’s taught me how to make the switch, to the “Genius” technicians who transferred all my files.

    I (and we all) get to choose between countless competent product and service providers of all kinds every day, and I’ll take that kind of competence infused with genuine and unquenchable passion any day. I’ll shout from the rooftops alongside you to all entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs to ABSOLUTELY ensure that passion is central to your business, alongside all the other things you need to learn and develop in terms of business know-how and skill to thrive in your field and make a difference to the people you serve.

    Thanks for the discussion, and to all who’ve contributed!

  22. J9Monday, January 31, 2011 at 4:58 pm 

    I am passionate about so much/ have been passionate about work and then circumstances changed (I had a son/ was a single mom by the time he was 1) and what I was passionate about and made a good living at I left to be in his life more. I started something else (with partners) and was very passionate but after 4 years of hard work/ lots of passion/ it didn’t pay the bills. Now I am faced with believing I want to follow what I am passionate about but I need to make a living and don’t necessarily have the time to wait for finding/ creating/ doing my ‘life’s work’ but may need to compromise with something I am somewhat passionate about but may not be the be all/end all. I am working on it with coaches/ workshops/ groups but this is a dilemma too I think many of us face when financial needs over power passion.

  23. Joshua Gribschaw-BeckWednesday, February 9, 2011 at 7:00 am 

    Love this video! I can feel your truth, authenticity and yes…passion! :O)

    Thanks for the inspiring message.

  24. Margo DeGangeSaturday, February 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm 

    Passion & Competency

    I think passion in business is like romantic love and commitment. You have the passion, you have the commitment, you are in love, you love your life, but it does ebb and flow and have highs and lows. You are not always “on fire” with passion although you are sure you are always in love, and exactly where you need to be.

    Using romantic love as an example: When you are changing the baby’s diaper and the phone is ringing and the dog just threw up, you may not feel your passion at that moment, but you are still “in love” with your partner, ecstatic about your family, living the life you love, and the passion is fueling you though you may not “feel” it at that moment. At that very moment, you need competency more than anything else!

    In business: With passion, you love going to “work” everyday (and it does not feel like work because you love it), but there will be times where you are stretched and challenged, and your competency and skill take you to the next wave of your passion. We need both, and we need a mindset of balance, and we need to understand what passion looks like in all of its forms.

    Do what you love, what you would do for free, what causes you to get up in the morning, what you could not imagine NOT doing, but know that you will not be on Cloud-9 and “hyped up on passion” 24/7, however, you will always love your life if you are following what drives you, and you should always do the overall work that you are passionate about, since that will sustain you long-term!

    It is extremely exciting that we can do what we love!

    Margo DeGange

Leave a Reply